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Action Stations

As the company enters its most significant growth phase yet, Sarah Spivey, the managing director at Modulift, explains how to stay cool under pressure.

In less than two months, we'll be moving into a new 22,000 square foot manufacturing facility here in our hometown of Poole, Dorset. Sales are up 10% on last year, driven by demand for both standard and custom product, but principally the latter. We're also in the process of on-boarding another 10 employees. Plus, it feels like on any given day we must have a presence at more than one exhibition or conference somewhere in the world. All this amid ongoing Brexit befuddlement. Everything considered it's the most frenetic chapter of my career so far.

Stressful, right? Wrong. And that's principally because we have invested a lot in making the business bifocal in terms of having commitment to a plan and flexibility to adapt as that blueprint evolves. As we all know, the unexpected happens, or the expected arrives sooner or later than we imagined. It's a state that all businesses should try to adopt, especially those on an aggressive growth curve or others braced for significant change. Companies often demonstrate adeptness in one of these areas but not always both. Possessing neither a plan nor adaptability is more worrying still.

It's what makes the work of Action Coach, which helps entrepreneurs and owners overcome the challenges in maintaining a company, so absorbing. We have been working with Gary Mullins, master coach, recently and his approach captures this two-pronged strategy. Much of Gary's guidance is centred on consummate planning, but he always structures his sessions around our recent experiences. In simple terms, he asks what challenges we've faced in, say, the last week and then helps us make a plan to overcome them.

Tune in

Half of you have just eye-rolled, I bet. Business coaching polarises opinion but I'd suggest—indeed, declare—that anyone in a leadership or ownership position who believes they're above tuition or couldn't benefit from it, is wrong. Think of your sporting heroes; most look to the inspiration or guidance of a coach, regardless of their experience or ability. That management is, importantly, tailored for the individual. I'm not a big football fan but I know who Lionel Messi is, and I'm sure he isn't lectured on the way he strikes the football. But in terms of team shape, strategy, and goal setting, the maestro certainly takes his turn as student. Action Coach content is equally relevant.

Nobody needs a coach to warn him or her against the damage that can be caused by scoring own goals. And sometimes in a period of change or growth, a business is at its most likely to contribute to its own demise. We've all been given an excuse for bad customer service:

"Sorry, we're very busy today."

"It's our busiest weekend of the year."

"We've only got one waiter serving right now."

"One of our machines isn't working. Please be patient."

Whatever the excuse, it hurts to be on the receiving end. Expanding companies must be careful not to use the process of progression as a reason to abandon the principles and best practices that have taken them that far. Ok, I'm not suggesting that the move into our new factory is going to be completely seamless and we may, ourselves, have to ask for some leeway, but that's not Plan A, and we're doing everything we can to ensure the expansion only has a positive impact. Nobody is going to care about our shiny new shop floor if their 600t capacity, custom spreader beam isn't on site ready for the critical lift. Once a company starts using growing pains as excuses, it becomes routine. It must be avoided.

Shop local

It takes good people to oversee evolution of a business and astute recruitment to ensure that the next wave of employees is of the same standard. However, too many companies and their leaders are blinkered when it comes to bringing in new personnel. I've heard it said on many occasions: "Nobody will be as fast as me." And: "The trouble is, we've already got the best people; the creative flair just isn't out there."

It's amazing what expertise might be on one's doorstep if people would only step outside to look for it. We've introduced some superb professionals to our community in recent weeks and it's testament to our coastal enclave that we can constantly expand a team here that can sustain consistent growth and compete globally with anyone in our marketplace. The talent at your disposal will probably surprise you too.

Always remember that no matter how busy the whiteboard or digital calendar gets, the customer remains paramount. Our new manufacturing facility will offer a myriad of benefits that will cascade down to our distributors and end users. It is centred on a custom engineering core that will increase the pace of production and cut lead times. That said, the irony of this entire chapter in our history is that we're under more pressure than ever before to ensure those clients don't suffer as a result of our long-term strategy. As explored, it takes a great plan and a steady nerve to ensure that everyone wins in the end.

Thank you for reading. I'm off to order a giant pair of scissors for our upcoming ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Thank you for reading. 

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